Spot starts are usually nothing to write home about for a baseball team.
Whatever reliever is plugged in for a night, the team usually just wants him to go long enough as not wear out the rest of the bullpen.
Anything beyond that is a bonus.
Former New Mexico Lobo Steve Smith provided that bonus on Monday night as the Albuquerque Isotopes rolled to a 7-3 win over the visiting Colorado Springs Sky Sox.
A crowd of 6,619 saw Smith allow just two unearned runs in four innings. He allowed three hits and three walks while striking out six batters.
“It felt good, it felt like being here and pitching here like I was back in college starting a game,” Smith said. “I just kind of went with the flow of the game and just tried to work ahead of hitters and keep the ball down in the zone. I’ve been struggling of late keeping the ball down.”
Smith gave up four runs in one inning during his last outing on Friday but it did not alter the team’s plans.
“We decided (to start Smith) about three days ago,” manager Lorenzo Bundy said. “The other day was kind of important to get him in the game for an inning otherwise it was going to be five or six days without throwing.”
Smith pitched his way out of trouble in the second inning Monday, striking out Tommy Manzella and Roman Colon with two runners on.
In the third inning, Smith retired the first two batters only to see Ryan Wheeler single and Matt McBride reach on an error by third baseman Alfredo Amezaga.
Tyler Colvin then hit one to center field that Nick Buss dove for but could not come up with. The ball rolled to the wall for a two-run triple but Colvin got greedy and was thrown out at home plate.
Smith finished with a scoreless fourth inning.
“I thought I threw the ball really well, kept the ball down, kept them off-balance with offspeed, fastballs, mixing it up,” Smith said. “It was just an unlucky break in the third inning. It happens, you just battle through it.”
Trailing 2-1, the Isotopes (22-22) erupted for six runs in the fourth inning. Rusty Ryal reached on an error by shortstop Tommy Manzella and Jeremy Moore singled. After Justin Sellers sacrificed them both over, Amezaga singled to center to tie the game.
Pinch hitter Tony Gwynn Jr. then drew a walk, thus ending Smith’s night.
“I’m glad we pinch hit (Gwynn),” Smith said with a smile. “Having a regular hitter at the plate with a close eye watching the ball, drawing a walk, not a pitcher going up there free swinging.”
Chili Buss reached on a fielder’s choice, driving in Moore for a 3-2 lead. Elian Herrera then singled to left field to score Amezaga.
Reliever Brett Jacobson came in and walked Alex Castellanos and Tim Federowicz to load the bases. Ryal then chopped a single up the middle to drive in two more runs and make it 7-2.
“It was nice coming out of the game and staying in the dugout there for a little while and watching them score the six runs,” Smith said. “It made it feel good about leaving the game and hopefully we could get the win and we did get the win so it was good.”
The Isotopes took it to their former teammate Colon (0-1), who was just acquired by the Rockies from the Braves over the weekend. He gave up six runs, though none were actually earned, on seven hits and one walk in 3.2 innings.
Anthony Ortega (2-2) earned the win in relief of Smith, allowing just one run in three innings.
The Isotopes will aim for their third straight victory Tuesday at 6:35 p.m.